Monday, March 24, 2014

Book Thoughts: "Expedition to the Mountains of the Moon" by Mark Hodder

I'll start by saying this is the third book in the Burton and Swinburne series, and that this series is one of my favorites. Usually I prefer standalone novels, but there are a choice few series that manage to hold my attention, this one being extra rare in that it's also steampunk. Also, can I take a minute to talk about the UK versus the North American covers? Look at the copy I have:

I bought this, along with the first and second Burton and Swinburne books, while living in Scotland. The three don't look identical, but they all have the same sort of visual vibe. Now click here and see what this same book looks like in North America, and again, the other books printed here have the same vibe. Unfortunately, I don't want the North American vibe. The fourth book is already out, but I'm seriously waiting until it comes out in paperback in the UK before adding it to my collection so it will match the rest of my set. I normally never care about these things, but in this case I seriously can't stand how ugly the North American covers are. It's difficult for me to fathom how those covers even got created in the first place, let alone approved and put on actual books.

Anyway. Burton and like most steampunk series' in that it's a alternate history set in the Victorian era, but unique in that the alternate timeline itself plays a huge role in the story. There is a specific point where an aberration in time occurred, creating a steampunk world that shouldn't exist. Each novel has its own self-contained story, but all of them contribute to a larger story about the warping and altering of time. This is all managed without bogging the books down with too much theory or exposition, so even if you're not acquainted with these sort of ideas, it's easy to find your way.

I don't know how much more I can say without spoiling any of the previous books, but several subplots come to heart-wrenching conclusions, and I can't wait to get book four just to find out where the characters can possibly go from here. It's something Hodder does that a lot of series' authors can't: make you legitimately concerned over the fates of his main characters. Usually there's a sense of security around ongoing series' protagonists such that, no matter what situation the author puts them in, you as a reader know they're going to be okay. The final book is one thing, but if there's another book ahead you can be sure the main guys are going to make it. Hodder managed to make me forget that on several occasions this time around.

It's especially difficult to bring suspense to a novel involving time travel, since there's the possibility of everything that's happened so far being undone, making any attempt at peril fall flat. Expedition teeters on this line a bit, but thankfully stops short of rendering the whole plot useless. I'll end by saying again that this is book three in an ongoing series that starts with The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack, followed by The Curious Case of the Clockwork Man, then Expedition to the Mountains of the Moon. All good stuff. Great, even.

Title: Expedition to the Mountains of the Moon
Published: 2012, Snowbooks Ltd.
Pages: 645, 668 with notes on the real people and events references throughout the book
Would Recommend: Yes, to anyone interested in steampunk that amounts to something more than just backdrop, or someone unfamiliar with the whole genre looking for an easy in.